@El Milagro Project
 
  Integrated Ecological Model in Intag, Ecuador
  Nestled in the cloud-forested mountains of the region of Intag on the western slopes of the Ecuadorean Andes, is a burgeoning project to create and demonstrate a replicable ecological lifestyle to local, national and international visitors and regenerate a precious cloud forest ecosystem.
  With support from the Sloth Club in Japan (www.sloth.gr.jp), the Rainforest Information Centre in Australia (www.forests.org/ric) and a growing number of volunteers and individual supporters, 'El Milagro' the Integrated Ecological Lifestyle Model project in Intag has been developing steadily over the past 2 years.
  The region is world famous as a hotspot of biological diversity one of the 10 most threatened on the planet and is a vital area to protect. The region of Intag has also become famous for fierce community resistance to destructive industrial development, like mining. Through the efforts of local grassroots activists and international networks there has been great progress in developing alternative, ecologically benign projects to help local people raise their income and standard of living while reducing destructive development activities and threats.
 

Helping introduce and establish sustainable alternatives is the unique political process led by CotacachiLs indigenous Mayor, Auki Tituana. Through the PeopleLs Assembly, the population of about 37 000, choose and actively participate in their own path of sustainable development. An important result of this political process has been the declaration of the entire area as an LEcological CountyL. The strict set of environmental ordinances, arguable the most comprehensive of its kind in the world, lay the foundations for a very green future.

Promoting ecological understanding and lifestyles is the probably the most urgent action to continue the progress so far. Most farmers and colonisers still subsist from extremely destructive practices?clearing and burning to grow marginal crops on very steep (erosion prone) slopes. Like other extremely threatened or already degraded areas of Ecuador, most people have no idea or information about sustainable land use practices.

  Demonstrating Solutions
 

The Integrated Ecological Lifestyle Model project in Intag hopes to provide an ecological example, based on permaculture design principles and experimenting with easily replicable and inexpensive ecological technologies from compost toilets, simple hydro-electric systems, solar cookers and dryers and biogas digesters. It is a place where international volunteers and visitors are invited to teach and learn and practice sustainable systems with local community groups.

Permaculture gardens have been planted as part of the overall design that includes collecting and distributing organic non-hybrid seeds to local people. Reforesting degraded parts of the 30 ha of land is also a key activity. Many international volunteers have already been involved in this project and have formed strong bonds with the local community. There is even the option for volunteers to expand the project by investing in the purchase of neighbouring properties for forest protection and regeneration.

 
 
Progress so far
 

As of December 2000, the land has around one hectare planted out with a range of plants and fruit trees. As well as fruit and vegies, about 500 coffee seedlings have been planted as part of the organic shade grown coffee project that has received so much support from friends in Japan. A local person, Luis Hidalgo, (and family, Mercedes, Clavers and Fernando) is employed to maintain the plants and the property itself. A horse (Yogi) keeps the grass down on the hectare of pasture and produce compost for the garden. A water pipe system has been installed to provide a permanent water supply to the house and garden from the permanent small stream that runs through the property. A greenhouse has been built to bring up native and fruit trees for reforestation efforts.

  Building of a central house is about complete, with a sugar cane grass roof and mud walls. The construction of the LroundL house follows ecological guidelines of using as many local materials as possible (mud walls, stone floor in kitchen and grass roof).
  Funding and the Future
 

The approach to funding with this project is to keep things small and simple and create systems that are not expensive and easily replicable. Volunteers, especially people who can teach appropriate technologies, are particularly sought after to share their knowledge and vision. The initial land purchase was made with support from ecological friends from the Sloth Club in Japan. The deedholder and project manager of the Rainforest Information Centre, Anja Light, is coordinating the project and is maintaining the project with funds raised from forest CD sales in Japan.

The long-term vision includes the gradual expansion of the project site by encouraging visitors to buy neighbouring parcels of land for reforestation, while focussing on the central land area for self-sufficiency production. At between US$100 and US$200 per hectare people can easily afford to invest in a personal stake in the protection and regeneration of cloud forest!

People living on neighbouring land usually hope to sell so they can move to the city. Others would like to stay in the area but are enthusiastic about learning different farming practices and receiving assistance in access to new niche markets for ecological products . The neighbouring virgin cloud forest of LLa FloridaL is a seed bank of native species that should be allowed to reclaim its borders it is with this ultimate vision that the Integrated Ecological Lifestyle Model in Intag was born.

  Help Us As A Volunteer
 
El Milagro, the Integrated Ecological Lifestyle Model in Intag welcomes volunteers. So far some volunteers from all over the world have contributed with their special skills and interests in activities ranging from permaculture garden design, reforestation, researching species lists and building ecological houses! There are tthe caretaker Mr Luis Idalugo(¨j, he everyday and cares El Milagro.
 

-visiting cost:$4/1day, $100/1month without meal

¦You can stay there howmanydays you want(from 1 day)t, but please get there between Monday to Friday.
¦ About food: It's depend on the season and alinate what kinds of vegetables we get from the croft, so ask about it before get there and bring by yourself.
-Lauguage:Only Spanish
 
-How to get there:
*Quito-Otavalo(2hours and half by bus)¨Pucara(2hours by Bus)¨El Miraglo(30min by walk)
Two hours on a local bus from the market town of Otavalo (two hours north of the capital Quito), you reach the tiny village of Pucara (a prominent pre-Incan civilization site scattered with sacred mounds or LTolasL). From here you look out to the 350 ha cloud forest reserve of LLa FloridaL and in this direction begin a 30 minute steep descent on foot. The Tuabunche river forms the lower boundary of the land and is one of its greatest features, flowing fresh and pure water from the Cotocachi-Cayapas biological reserve.
-Living Conditions at El Milagro:
Altitude: 1800 metres
Climate: warm days (25C), cool nights (10C), high rainfall (daily afternoon rains most of the year). Too high for malaria mosquitos. Recommended long sleeves and pants for local respectability and to protect from the occasionally biting LmidgeL fly.
House: Vegetarian household, very simple mud and wood house (but dry!). Compost toilet, river for washing (a solar shower is planned for the very near future).
Nearby villages of Pucara, Plaza Guiterrez and Santa Rosa stock basic supplies. Township of Apuella is 50 mins walk and has Sunday markets and all other supplies. HotSprings are located 10 mins by car from Apuella.
-Activities include (depending on experience and skills):
Please ask Luis(caretaker) particularl in the field..
-Reforestation
-Permaculture and Herb Garden Maintenance,
-Building and carpentry (huts, bath house, solar shower etc),
-Installing alternative technologies (biogas is highly requested!),
-Assisting in rural high school system (SAT),
-Environmental Research.
 

If you would like to find out more, volunteer or visit this project, please contact: info@sloth.gr.jp